The Observatory has been informed about the sentencing and ongoing arbitrary detention of Mohamed El-Baqer, human rights lawyer and Director of Adalah Center for Rights and Freedoms, Alaa Abdel Fattah, a blogger and member of the “No to Military Trials for Civilians” movement1 and Mohamed Ibrahim, aka Mohamed Oxygen, a prominent blogger who reported on politics and human rights issues in Egypt before his arbitrary detentions in 2018 and 2019.
On December 20, 2021, the Misdemeanours Emergency State Security Court in Cairo sentenced Alaa Abdel Fattah to five years of imprisonment, and Mohamed El-Baqer and Mohamed Oxygen to four years in prison on charges of “spreading false news undermining national security” in Criminal Case 1228 of 2021. This case is related to several messages the three human rights defenders posted in 2019 on their social media accounts denouncing human rights violations in Egypt. This sentence is not subject to appeal. At the time of publication of this Urgent Appeal, Alaa Abdel Fattah, Mohamed El-Baqer and Mohamed Oxygen remained detained in maximum security Tora prison, notorious for its cruel and inhuman conditions, such as lack of clean water, poor ventilation and overcrowding.
The Observatory recalls that Mohamed El-Baqer, Alaa Abdel Fattah and Mohamed Oxygen were referred to trial before the Misdemeanours Emergency State Security Court on October 18, 2021 and charged with “spreading false news undermining national security”. Their lawyers were not informed about the decision to refer them to trial and were hence prevented from presenting their defence. Moreover, the prosecutor only allowed the lawyers to read the case file but denied them access to an official copy of the documents.
Criminal Case 1228 of 2021 would be identical to Criminal Case 1356 of 2019, for which the three human rights defenders have been held in pre-trial detention for over two years, the maximum legal period of pre-trial detention under Egypt’s Criminal Procedure Code. In this regard, bringing new charges against them under a new criminal case is framed within a series of strategies systematically used by the Egyptian authorities to extend the pre-trial detention of human rights defenders once they have reached the maximum detention limit for a case.
The Observatory further recalls that Alaa Abdel Fattah was arrested on September 29, 2019, in his probation cell at the Dokki police station, where he was spending his daily 12 hours under police monitoring2. His lawyer Mohamed El-Baqer was arrested later that day at the State Security Prosecution premises while he was attending an investigation session with his client Mr. Abdel Fattah.
The two human rights defenders were subsequently accused under Criminal Case 1356 of 2019 by State Security Prosecution under vague and unfounded charges of “belonging to a terrorist group”, “funding a terrorist group”, “spreading false news undermining national security” and “using social media to commit publishing offenses” and remanded in preventive detention in Tora High Security prison 2.
On November 18, 2021, the Court of Cassation of Egypt rejected the appeal presented by the lawyers of Mohamed El-Baqer and Alaa Abdel Fattah against the decision to include both human rights defenders to Egypt’s “terrorist list” for a period of five years issued by the Cairo Criminal Court on November 19, 2020 in connection with Criminal Case 1781 of 2019. The Court of Cassation issued its ruling despite the advisory decision submitted by the Cassation Prosecution recommending the Court to accept the appeal and remove the defenders from the terrorist list. The decision of the Court of Cassation is final and hence cannot be appealed.
Mohamed Oxygen was arbitrarily detained on September 21, 2019 while complying with his precautionary measures at Al-Basateen Police Station, in Giza, under Criminal Case 621 of 2019, for which he had been detained from April 6, 2018 to July 31, 2019. On October 8, 2019, he appeared before the State Security Prosecution in Cairo. He was charged under Criminal Case 1356 of 2019 and ordered a 15-day pre-trial detention period. On November 3, 2020 the Giza Criminal Court ordered the release of Mohamed Ibrahim with precautionary measures. However, the decision was not implemented and on November 10, 2020 the Supreme State Security Prosecution charged him with “joining a terrorist group” under Criminal Case 855 of 2020. In July 2021, after almost two years of pre-trial detention and without access to his family and lawyers, Mohamed Ibrahim attempted suicide while in prison.
Since their arrest, Mohamed El-Baqer, Alaa Abdel Fattah and Mohamed Oxygen’s right to due process has been continuously violated through countless and unjustified renewals of their preventive detention by both the Supreme State Security Prosecution and the Cairo Criminal Court. Moreover, their lawyers have been denied access to their case files and prevented from presenting their defence. The three of them have also been subjected to threats and acts of ill-treatment while in detention. They are denied the right to go outside, to reading material, a watch or a clock, adequate clothing and hot running water. Mohamed El-Baqer and Mohamed Oxygen are also denied a mattress, and this might also be the case for Alaa Abdel-Fattah. Furthermore, Alaa Abdel Fattah expressed his distress and suicidal thoughts to his lawyer after his pre-trial detention was renewed for 45 days on September 13, 2021.
The Observatory strongly condemns the sentencing and of Mohamed El-Baqer, Alaa Abdel Fattah and Mohamed Oxygen and expresses its utmost concern over their ongoing arbitrary detention. The Observatory recalls that Egyptian authorities have increasingly employed repressive tactics such as prolonged pre-trial detention, recycling cases against dissidents, enforced disappearance, torture, unjust sentences and judicial harassment to silence all critical voices, including through unfounded investigations for national security and counter-terrorism related charges.
The Observatory calls on the Egyptian authorities to quash the verdict against Mohamed El-Baqer, Alaa Abdel Fattah and Mohamed Oxygen and to immediately and unconditionally release them, as their detention is arbitrary since it seems to be only aimed at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities.
How You Can Help
Please write to the authorities in Egypt, urging them to:
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Mohamed El-Baqer, Alaa Abdel Fattah and Mohamed Oxygen, as well as that of all human rights defenders in Egypt;
ii. Immediately and unconditionally quash the sentence against Mohamed El-Baqer, Alaa Abdel Fattah and Mohamed Oxygen and release them, as their detention is arbitrary since it only seems to aim at punishing them for their legitimate human rights activities;
iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mohamed El-Baqer, Alaa Abdel Fattah and Mohamed Oxygen, as well as of all human rights defenders in Egypt and ensure that they are able to carry out their activities without hindrance and fear of reprisals.
- President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, H.E. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Email: email@example.com, Twitter: @AlsisiOfficial
- Prime Minister, Mr. Mustafa Kemal Madbouly Mohamed. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Minister of the Interior, Mr. Mahmoud Tawfik, Email: email@example.com
- Head of the Egyptian Parliament’s Human Rights Committee, Mr. Alaa Abed, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mr. Mohamed Fayeq, President of the National Council for Human Rights, Email: email@example.com
- H.E. Mr. Alaa Youssef, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Egypt to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Embassy of Egypt in Brussels, Belgium, Email: email@example.com
Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Egypt in your respective country.